Open Thread: March 8th Camp Notes

Thanks to Cole Figueroa’s go-ahead eighth inning single, the Yankees beat the Nationals by the score of 3-2 this afternoon. Brett Gardner and Jose Pirela drove in the other two runs with infield singles. Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Garrett Jones, and Chris Young all went 0-for-3 while Alex Rodriguez and Brian McCann both went 1-for-2. A-Rod blooped a ground rule double to right and McCann singled to left to beat the shift. Pirela had two knocks off the bench.

Adam Warren gave up a solo homer on the very first pitch of the game but otherwise settled down and threw three pretty uneventful innings. Andrew Miller struck out one in a perfect inning and Dellin Betances struck out two after allowing a ground ball double down the line in his spring debut. He threw one inning. Luis Severino struck out three and allowed an unearned run in 1.1 innings of work. Wilking Rodriguez and Jared Burton retired the final six Nats batters to close out the game. Here’s the box score, here are the video highlights, and here’s the rest from Tampa:

  • CC Sabathia threw a 29-pitch live batting practice session this morning and said he “felt good, no problems. I was able to throw everything.” He’ll throw a two-inning simulated game next before pitching in an actual Grapefruit League game. [Erik Boland, Meredith Marakovits]
  • During an in-game interview with the YES booth, Joe Girardi confirmed Masahiro Tanaka will start Thursday’s game against the Braves. Here’s the rotation for Monday through Friday: Michael Pineda (Nathan Eovaldi in relief), Chase Whitley, Chris Capuano, Tanaka, Warren. [Chad Jennings]
  • A-Rod played the field today but will DH tomorrow with Beltran playing right field. “I wouldn’t expect too much movement (in the field this year),” said Alex. “Ball’s hit to me, catch it and throw to first. It’s not going to be an Ozzie Smith year.” [Marly Rivera, Jennings]
  • Capuano, Bryan Mitchell, Jose Ramirez, Andrew Bailey, and Jacob Lindgren all threw bullpen sessions this morning while the position players went through a usual day of hitting and fielding work. [Jennings]
  • Brendan Ryan (mid-back sprain) is feeling better but is still day-to-day and is only taking baby steps in workouts. He’s concerned about missing the start of the season. [Ryan Hatch]

Here’s the nightly open thread. This afternoon’s game against the Nationals will be replayed on both MLB Network (8pm ET) and YES (9pm ET), if you’re interested. The Nets are playing right now, both the Rangers and Devils are playing later tonight, and there’s one college basketball game on as well. You folks know what to do here, so have at it.

Spring Training Game Thread: Second Time Around


Now that we’re about a week into Spring Training games, the rotation has turned over and we’re getting to see guys for the second time. Adam Warren will make his second start of the spring — I assume he’ll work three innings or 45 pitches, that’s pretty standard for the second spring start — and both Andrew Miller and top pitching prospect Luis Severino will make their second Grapefruit League appearances.

The Nationals made the two-hour bus trip over from Melbourne and didn’t bring many regulars, predictably. In fact, they sent the minimum four big leaguers, and two of them (Kevin Frandsen and Jose Lobaton) are bench players. Impending free agents and possible future Yankees Ian Desmond and Doug Fister are the other two. The Yankees drafted Fister once upon a time (sixth round, 2005) and he’s super tall (6-foot-8 and 210 lbs.), so maybe the team will have interest in him as a free agent after the season.

Today’s reason to watch: Alex Rodriguez is playing his first game at third base — first since September 2013! — so we’ll get to see how (im)mobile he is at the hot corner. With no clear cut backup for Chase Headley, A-Rod‘s ability to play third on occasion is not insignificant. Also, Dellin Betances is making his Grapefruit League debut. And Severino will pitch too.

Here is this afternoon’s starting lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Carlos Beltran
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. 3B Alex Rodriguez
  6. 1B Garrett Jones
  7. RF Chris Young
  8. 2B Jose Pirela
  9. SS Nick Noonan
    RHP Adam Warren

Available Pitchers: LHP Andrew Miller, RHP Dellin Betances, RHP Luis Severino, RHP Wilking Rodriguez, LHP James Pazos, and RHP Jared Burton are all scheduled to pitch, apparently. RHP Diego Moreno, RHP Nick Goody, LHP Chasen Shreve, and RHP Chris Martin are the extra arms.

Available Position Players: C Gary Sanchez, 1B Kyle Roller, 2B Cole Figueroa, SS Cito Culver, 3B Jonathan Galvez, LF Ben Gamel, CF Mason Williams, and RF Aaron Judge will be the second string off the bench. C Francisco Arcia, C Kyle Higashioka, C Trent Garrison, 1B Greg Bird, 2B Rob Refsnyder, OF Jake Cave, OF Ramon Flores, and OF Tyler Austin are all on the bench as well.

It’s a little cloudy in Tampa this afternoon but there’s no rain in the forecast. Temperatures in the mid-70s and not that much humidity by Florida standards. This afternoon’s game will begin shortly after 1pm ET and you can watch live on YES and (no blackouts). MLB Network will show the game on a tape delay later tonight (8pm ET). Enjoy.

Open Thread: March 7th Camp Notes


Thanks to a six-run ninth inning, the Yankees came back for a 9-4 win over the Astros in Kissimmee this afternoon. Ramon Flores (solo), Jake Cave (solo), and Greg Bird (two-run) all went deep and Rob Refsnyder singled in two runs. Didi Gregorius went 0-for-3, Stephen Drew went 0-got-2 with a walk, and both Chase Headley and Mark Teixeira went 1-for-3. Cave had two hits off the bench.

Veteran retread Scott Baker got lit up in his inning of work, allowing three runs on six hits. Jose DePaula threw two scoreless innings out of the bullpen in his spring debut, and Danny Burawa, Tyler Webb, Kyle Davies, Caleb Cotham, and Zach Nuding threw one shutout inning each. Nick Rumbelow allowed one run in his inning. Here’s the box score — no video highlights because the game wasn’t televised — and here are the rest of the day’s notes from Tampa:

  • Masahiro Tanaka threw a two-inning, 29-pitch simulated game and everything went well. “He’s exactly where you want him to be at this point in Spring Training,” said pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Tanaka’s next appearance will be in a real game, reportedly Thursday. [Bryan Hoch]
  • CC Sabathia will throw a two-inning simulated game tomorrow but it’s unclear when he will get into a spring game. Dellin Betances will make his spring debut tomorrow and Michael Pineda will make his on Monday. Nathan Eovaldi will follow Pineda in Monday’s game. [Brendan Kuty, Hoch]
  • Pineda, Esmil Rogers, and Chase Whitley all threw bullpen sessions. Otherwise it was a light workout day. The position players who played last night had the day off. [Chad Jennings]
  • Following last night’s spring debut, Carlos Beltran said his elbow feels fine and he doesn’t need any sort of brace or sleeve. “The good thing is I’m pain free,” he said. “Honestly, I’m not concerned at all … Now it’s just time to get the timing.” [Erik Boland, Jennings]
  • Joe Girardi said “it’s possible” Alex Rodriguez will play third base tomorrow. Brendan Ryan (mid-back sprain) remains day-to-day according to the skipper. Slade Heathcott was scratched from this afternoon’s game due to an illness. [Boland, Brendan Kuty, Hoch]
  • Waiting for the Opening Day starting pitcher announcement? Keep waiting. Girardi said he hasn’t made up his mind and wants to see how his pitchers look before making a decision. [Jennings]

Here is tonight’s open thread. MLB Network is replaying this afternoons Nationals-Cardinals game, plus both the Knicks and Islanders are playing. And there’s some college hoops too. Talk about anything except religion and politics here.

Reports: Hector Olivera declared free agent, may or may not have a damaged UCL

Depending on who you ask, Cuban infielder Hector Olivera may have a damaged ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow, meaning he faces season-ending Tommy John surgery. Jeff Passan says “serious concerns exist” among teams while Olivera’s camp told Jesse Sanchez their client is fine. “Photos don’t lie. They always tell the story,” said one team official to Sanchez, referring to an MRI.

Olivera, who turns 30 in April, was cleared to sign by MLB and the Office of Foreign Assets Control yesterday according to Sanchez, so he can sign at any time now. Passan says it is believed Olivera has at least one offer worth more than $50M in hand, though the injury will change everything, assuming it exists. Olivera is considered the best available Cuba player on the market now that Yoan Moncada has signed.

Back in January we heard the Yankees had “strong interest” in Olivera, who is considered a better player than recently signed outfielders Rusney Castillo and Yasmany Tomas. Assuming he’s healthy, of course. Here’s a quick scouting report from December, via Ben Badler:

At around 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, Olivera is a physical righthanded hitter with a loose, quick swing and a good hitting approach. He showed good power for a middle infielder, and given that several Cuban players have transformed their bodies and increased their power since leaving the island, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Olivera did the same. His size, athleticism and plus speed (at least at his peak) made him one of the most well-rounded players in Cuba.

The elbow is not the only physical concern with Olivera. He missed the entire 2012-13 season in Cuba with a blood disorder and hasn’t participated in many international tournaments since then. Scouts simply haven’t seen a whole of him the last few years. (He has been holding showcase events in recent weeks, which is when the UCL injury apparently occurred.) Here are Olivera’s stats from Cuba, via Baseball Reference:

2003 Santiago de Cuba CNS 132 32 38 6 3 1 11 5 0 7 20 .319 .367 .445 .813
2004 Santiago de Cuba CNS 298 47 92 10 4 6 35 7 7 12 32 .326 .362 .454 .816
2005 Santiago de Cuba CNS 77 296 42 66 8 4 3 35 5 6 35 24 .262 .351 .361 .712
2006 Santiago de Cuba CNS 89 409 72 113 15 1 6 32 7 4 28 26 .315 .370 .412 .782
2007 Santiago de Cuba CNS 84 394 91 114 25 3 10 45 21 1 55 28 .353 .467 .542 1.009
2008 Santiago de Cuba CNS 84 398 84 115 23 5 16 71 8 3 55 24 .346 .444 .590 1.035
2009 Santiago de Cuba CNS 89 411 76 111 34 4 14 54 0 1 56 29 .322 .415 .565 .980
2010 Santiago de Cuba CNS 86 394 83 110 25 1 16 70 2 0 37 21 .318 .390 .535 .924
2011 Santiago de Cuba CNS 60 264 48 73 10 0 17 42 0 1 44 22 .341 .462 .626 1.088
2013 Santiago de Cuba CNS 73 273 44 72 11 2 7 38 0 0 38 25 .316 .412 .474 .885
10 Seasons 642 3269 619 904 167 27 96 433 55 23 367 251 .323 .407 .505 .912

Two years ago the Phillies agreed to a six-year, $48M contract with Cuban righty Miguel Gonzalez before cutting it down to a three-year, $12M deal after concerns about his shoulder popped up, so Olivera would not be the first Cuban free agent to deal with an injury before signing. Position players typically need six months to rehab from Tommy John surgery, which is half the usual timetable for pitchers but still season-ending.

Olivera is both a second and third baseman, and while the Yankees have Chase Headley for the hot corner, they do need a long-term second base solution. The elbow injury could be an opportunity for New York to grab Olivera on the cheap, though there’s a lot of risk involved because Tommy John surgery isn’t a sure thing. If nothing else, there’s no reason for the Yankees to not kick the tires and see if a discount is in the cards.

Open Thread: March 6th Camp Notes

Half the Yankees — less really, only four regulars made the trip — played a split squad game against the Phillies this afternoon and they walked away with a 4-1 win. Didi Gregorius, Greg Bird, and Nick Noonan all had run-scoring doubles. Stephen Drew went 1-for-2, Chase Headley went 0-for-2 with a walk, and Mark Teixeira went 1-for-2. Slade Heathcott went 1-for-1 with two walks. It’s early but he’s having a nice camp so far.

Bryan Mitchell started and struck out two in two scoreless innings. He looked pretty sharp. Jaron Long and Nick Goody both threw scoreless innings and both Matt Tracy and Branden Pinder threw two scoreless innings each. The relief prospect formerly known as Mark Montgomery allowed the only run on a long homer by Xavier Paul. Here’s the box score and here are the video highlights. The Yankees play their other split squad game against the Pirates at 7pm ET. Here are the rest of the day’s notes from Tampa:

Here’s the daily open thread. There is no video broadcast of tonight’s home split squad game against the Pirates. You can listen to Pittsburgh’s radio broadcast on the MLB At-Bat app though. This afternoon’s game against the Phillies will re-air on MLB Network at 9pm ET, if you’re interested. Otherwise you’ve got the Devils, Nets, and college basketball tonight. Have at it.

Eddy: Yankees sign Mat Gamel to minor league contract

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

According to Mat Eddy, the Yankees have signed first baseman and former top Brewers prospect Mat Gamel to what we can safely assume is a minor league contract. No idea if he’ll come to Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. Mat is the older brother of Yankees farmhand Ben Gamel, an outfielder who spent last season with Double-A Trenton.

Gamel, 29, has not played at all since 2012 due to a series of knee injuries, specifically torn right ACLs. He tore it the first time in May 2012 running into a wall chasing a pop-up, re-tore it during a Spring Training workout in 2013, then injured the knee again working out at home prior to the 2014 season. Gamel has been rehabbing and working his way back since then.

When he last played in 2012, Gamel went 17-for-69 (.246) with one homer in 21 games for Milwaukee. He’s a career .229/.305/.367 (78 wRC+) hitter in 269 big league plate appearances and a .301/.374/.512 (~120 wRC+) hitter in over 1,200 Triple-A plate appearances. Baseball America ranked Gamel as the 34th best prospect in baseball prior to 2009, but gosh, that was a long time ago.

Kyle Roller, Greg Bird, and Mike Ford are set to be the starting first basemen at Triple-A Scranton, Double-A Trenton, and High-A Tampa, respectively, so it’s unclear where Gamel fits in at the moment. He might still be rehabbing for all we know. Gamel could be a DH candidate at Triple-A or Double-A, but there’s no reason to think he’s some sort of big league option.

Didi Gregorius and the Need for Defense and Development [2015 Season Preview]

Get off El Duque's lawn. (Presswire)
Get off El Duque’s lawn. (Presswire)

I don’t know if it was their top priority this winter, but finding a new starting shortstop was a very important item on the Yankees’ offseason shopping list. Derek Jeter retired and with no shortstop prospects on the cusp of MLB, that meant they had to go outside the organization. Free agency had some okay solutions and the trade market is always a bit of a mystery, so eh.

After reportedly making several trade offers for multiple shortstops earlier in the winter, the Yankees found their new shortstop in early-December, sending Shane Greene to the Tigers in a three-way trade that brought Didi Gregorius to New York. The Yankees had been trying to acquire Didi since at least the 2013 Winter Meetings, so it wasn’t a total surprise when they acquired him.

“They turned me down 10,000 ways over and I had to go through a third team,” said Brian Cashman to Chad Jennings last week. “I went through a number of different teams who when I was dealing with them who told me, ‘I tried to get him, too.’ I tried to get him at the deadline. I obviously tried to get him over the winter. A number of failed attempts. And then other teams were conveying back to me their failed attempts.”

The Yankees also re-signed Stephen Drew to play second base this winter, and while he is a natural shortstop, he is not considered any sort of threat to Gregorius. The Yankees didn’t trade Shane Greene to get Gregorius only to pull the plug after his first slump. Didi will get a long look this year and have a chance to solidify himself as the club’s shortstop of the future. Let’s look at what the Yankees need from him and what he can realistically provide.

Yankees Need: Above-Average Defense

Let’s not kid ourselves here. Gregorius is a glove first player and the Yankees acquired him first and foremost because of his work in the field. Jeter was a tremendous player, but he stunk defensively, especially later in his career, and the Yankees clearly prioritized improving their infield defense over the winter. This is a pretty simple and straight forward request: Gregorius has to make all the plays he’s supposed to make plus some a Yankees’ shortstop hasn’t made in a long time.

Gregorius Can: Play Above-Average Defense, I Think

There’s a disconnect between the scouting reports and stats when it comes to Didi’s fielding ability. He came to the Yankees will a reputation for being a strong gloveman, but it could just be the infield version of Nichols Law, meaning he’s so bad at the plate his defensive reputation got inflated. Here are some scouting report tidbits from Baseball America (subs. req’d) over the years.

  • 2011: “He has a 65 arm on the 20-to-80 scouting scale that allows him to make any throw, often without needing to set his feet. His above-average speed and quick feet give him good range as well, though his hands are still somewhat erratic. Many of his errors come from a lack of focus and a tendency to rush plays.”
  • 2012: “Gregorius is a quality athlete whose best attribute is his arm, which rates a 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale thanks to its strength and accuracy. He’s a plus defender with good range and a quick first step. His hands are his biggest drawback defensively and contributed to his 21 errors in 80 games in 2011.”
  • 2013: “He has smooth actions, plus range and a sniper rifle of an arm. His arm rates as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale, allowing him to make plays from deep in the hole that other shortstops can’t.”

The scouting reports say Gregorius has defensive tools, yet UZR (-3.6), DRS (0), Total Zone (-7), and FRAA (-4.0) all say he’s been average or (mostly) worse in his 1,521.1 career innings at short. Inside Edge data shows Gregorius has been above-average at making difficult plays and below-average at making routine ones, which lends some credence to that whole “many of his errors come from a lack of focus and a tendency to rush plays” nugget from Baseball America’s 2011 scouting report.

When it comes to a player who has just about one year worth of MLB time at a position, I’m going to trust the scouting reports over the stats every time. Defensive stats are a wonderful tool but they are still very much a work in progress, and one year is not a big enough sample to say anything definitive. Gregorius might really be below-average! We’re going to find out this year. Until then, I’m sticking with the scouting reports that say he’s a strong defender.

Yankees Need: To See Some Improvement Against Lefties

In 724 career plate appearances, the 25-year-old Gregorius is a .243/.313/.366 (84 wRC+) hitter overall, including .262/.332/.411 (102 wRC+) against righties and .184/.257/.233 (33 wRC+) against lefties. If he performs like that against right-handed pitchers going forward, I think the Yankees would be thrilled. (His career spray charts against righties suggest Didi will benefit from Yankee Stadium.) They would be even more thrilled if Gregorius makes some strides against southpaws and shows he can be an everyday player long-term, not just the heavy side of a platoon as a left-handed hitter. Some sort of progress against lefties is a must in 2015.

Gregorius Can: Try To Improve Against Lefties

Didi has only 180 career plate appearances against southpaws at the MLB level and that’s not much, but those same scouting reports that praise his defense also note he’s struggled against left-handed pitchers throughout his career — “Being a lefthanded hitting shortstop is another positive in Gregorius’ favor, though he has struggled against lefties throughout his career,” said the 2012 write-up — so this isn’t a new trend.

The Yankees have already mentioned platooning Gregorius with Brendan Ryan, but that’s just silly. (Ryan has a 56 wRC+ against lefties the last three years!) If the club wants to shelter Gregorius and sit him against the toughest of lefties, the David Prices and Chris Sales of the world, then fine. But it shouldn’t be an outright platoon. The only way Gregorius is going to improve against lefties is by facing them. If he rides the pine against good but not great southpaws like Mark Buehrle, Wei-Yin Chen, and Wade Miley, then what the hell is the point?

Yankees Need: Some Excitement

The Yankees are a pretty boring team, wouldn’t you say? Masahiro Tanaka starts, Michael Pineda starts, and Dellin Betances appearances were by far the most exciting part of last year’s team. By far. Every once in a while Frankie Cervelli would pump his fist or do something goofy, but that was it. We couldn’t even laugh at Eduardo Nunez‘s helmet falling off every damn time he ran to first because he had been sent packing. So Didi, the Yankees and everyone else beg you to please inject some life in this group.

Gregorius Can: Play With Energy

Gregorius has a reputation of being a high-energy player though I’m not sure how true that really is because I haven’t seen him play all that much. Hopefully it is true. Everyone can play with energy though, especially a 25-year-old shortstop, so hopefully Gregorius is the kind of exciting, fun to watch player the Yankees have sorely lacked in recent years. If the Yankees are going to miss the postseason again, I would at least like them to be watchable.

(Just FYI: My alternate title was “In Which Didi Stands For Di-fense and Di-velopment.”)